News and Interviews

Canada Reads 2024 Midweek Recap - Which Will be the One Book to Carry us Forward?

Image of the five panellists for CBC Canada Reads 2024 holding their chosen books. Left to right: Heather O'Neill, Kudakwashe Rutendo, Dallas Soonias, Mirian Njoh, Naheed Nenshi

CBC's Canada Reads kicked off yesterday, and there has already been some stirring discussion and debate about the competing titles. There are three books that remain in the running to be crowned the "one book to carry us forward." While two worthy contenders have already been voted out of the competition.

On day one, former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi talked about the reach and power of Denison Avenue by Christina Wong & Daniel Innes, and the many ways that it is an essential read for all Canadians. With prose and illustration that tells a story of a citizen watching their city change and vanish, and who tries to find a way forward.

Kudakwashe Rutendo lauded the way that art and poetry combine in Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji, and how these forms are there to make us feel something profound. She argued that, whether or not the collection is jarring and challenging to some readers, if is full of the emotional weight that sets important stories apart, and that we sometimes need meaningful disruption in our literature.

Dallas Soonias sung the praises of Bad Cree by Jessica Johns, and its worth as a novel that does not focus on the "I" or "individual, but that will truly bring us forward as a community. He called in the "antidote" to the nefarious "white saviour" stories that readers have been told in popular fiction and film. He recognized Bad Cree as a story told in a web, and not a list, as so much Eurocentric fiction is. 

Mirian Njoh was adamant that romance is a key genre that creates readers, and that Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune was the title to bridge the gap for those who may become avid lovers of books, instead of catering to those that are already steeped in established literature. She called it a book the explores challenging themes in family and community, but that is told is a way that offers escape and healing.

Heather O'Neill made sure to mention that The Future by Catherine Leroux, translated by Susan Ouriou was crucial as a work of French-language literature, and that it was important to remember that this is not a country that only reads in English, as evidenced by the use of other languages in some of the other books in competition. A story of wild children who've found each other in the woods in a dystopian world, and who create their own language and break down established mainstream constructs.

Canada Reads table

The champions then had to choose which book they would eliminate, and voted as follows:

Naheed Nenshi voted against Meet Me at the Lake.

Dallas Soonias voted against Meet Me at the Lake.

Kudakwashe Rutendo voted against Meet Me at the Lake.

Mirian Njoh voted against The Future.

And, finally, Heather O'Neill voted against Meet Me at the Lake.

After the votes were tallied, Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune was eliminated on Day One.

Mirian Njoh and Meet Me at the Lake

On Day Two, the debates ramped up yet again, with Mirian Njoh still on the panel to vote with the other champions, and contribute to the discussion. Now with only four remaining titles in contention for Canada Reads glory.

Naheed Nenshi talked about major shifts facing Canada; immigration, aging population, housing choice, and neighbourhood change, and spoke about how Denison Avenue addresses those issues in art. He called it a small story of one woman battling through unimaginable grief, but one that figures in for larger sociopolitical issues that are often brushed under the rug in Canada.

Kudakwashe Rutendo dove deeper into the stories in Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji, and talked about the importance of a book that explores the life of a sexually empowered young woman. It was touted as a collection where we see good and bad experiences reflected without shame, all while the protagonist navigates the world while being an object of beauty who has to walk a fine line that is often drawn by the patriarchy, and those who objectify woman and people of colour.

In making his argument about what makes Bad Cree the book to carry us forward, Dallas Soonias told the panel that the novel was about the collective and not the individual, about the connections in the book that link people in a community, and also about understanding who your people are, and what real family is. He also talked about the subtle way that Jessica Johns portrays harrowing scenes, and the beauty of humour and how it heals.

Finally, Heather O'Neill discussed some of the misconceptions in popular stories about the inevitable societal breakdown and descent into violence after a worldchanging event. She spoke to the idea that The Future is a reflection of how people have been found to build community and take care of each other in these situations, and how the presence of borders and the national identities that have been forced upon us are merely conceptual.

Dallas Soonias

Then it was time for the champions to take to their ballots:

Kudakwashe Rutendo voted against Denison Avenue.

Naheed Nenshi voted against The Future.

Heather O'Neill voted against Denison Avenue.

Dallas Soonias voted against The Future.

And, finally, Mirian Njoh voted against Bad Cree.

This led to a rare tie, with the determining vote to be broken by Mirian Njoh, as the neutral party on the day. Njoh took her time to carefully consider her choices, but then chose to vote against Denison Avenue.

After the votes were tallied, Denison Avenue by Christina Wong & Daniel Innes was eliminated on Day Two.

The Canada Reads 2024 panelists and their books

It was another riveting day for book lovers and supporters of these amazing authors, and we hope you'll check back with us on the final day of the competition for a wrap-up recap of this year's Canada Reads.

To continue watching or listening to the competition daily, you can check out the links below:

CBC Books will livestream the debates at 10:05 a.m. ET on CBCBooks.caYouTube and CBC Gem, at the same time that they air on CBC Radio. You can also watch that day's debate on television, airing at 1pm on CBC. 

The debates will be available to replay online each day. The livestream on YouTube will be available to watch outside Canada. 

To watch full replays of the contest to-date, you can click here for Day One, and here for Day Two. They are also available in podcast format through the app of your choice.


Below, we have reminder of the full shortlist of books that were up for the coveted Canada Reads title when the week began, with those that were eliminated flagged accordingly.

The 2024 CBC Canada Reads contenders are: